First panto opens at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal since 1965

There’s an old theatrical belief that if you fall over on a stage, it means you are going to come back to it some time.

New Theatre Royal
New Theatre Royal

Brighton-based Alice Redmond, who plays the Fairy Godmother in the New Theatre Royal’s pantomime in Portsmouth this year, is the living proof that that’s true.

“In 2009 I did Alice in Wonderland in that theatre and I loved it. It was when the theatre was still in a bit of a broken state and before all the refurbishment that has happened now, when there was like a bridge back stage to cabins and the stage itself was level with the boxes. And I remember just loving the venue. It is so steeped in history, a Frank Matcham theatre and you just feel that there is a spirit to it, a real sense coming from the building.

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“And what happened on the stage was that I fell over and there is that old saying that if you fall over on a stage, it means you’re going to come back. I didn’t hurt myself. It was more the fact that I had a massive crinoline on, a huge hooped skirt and wellingtons, and I couldn’t get myself off the floor. The girl playing Alice was in the wings and she had to just drag me off.

“For the audience all they could see was a massive hooped skirt and a pair of wellingtons disappearing off the stage!

“My dignity went out the window but your dignity always goes out the window when you are on stage! I think that the audience probably thought it was just part

of the show. It was my own fault I was messing around with my flamingo and there had been a scene with sand before. I had been told to be careful and I just slipped on the sand.”

Alice is a panto regular: “Or at least I liked to think I am before Covid. I just love doing it. There is such a joy from the audience and you get people that are not theatre-goers for the rest of the year but going to the panto. You get a real family feeling and it’s great to get these children away from their screens to experience live theatre.

“Pantomime is a piece of theatre where you can all enjoy it whether you’re two or 200. You can just throw yourself into it and it covers all the age groups. You can shout at the baddie and you can cheer on the goodie and there’s generally a love story. It’s just a really great evening out. And they usually put in modern pop songs. It is just lovely.”

And it’s great to come back after the pandemic: “It was difficult but all performers, well, we just adapt. Friends of mine in the West End were doing deliveries and I became a head of year at a college in Brighton. I was teaching online. We just all adapted and the great thing is that nobody was really grumpy and that says a lot about our industry. You just tried to carry on.”

Alice lives in Brighton: “I love it there and I’ve loved it there ever since I was a kid and we used to come down in the summer.

“I love being by the sea and I love the open spaces and the Downs. The only thing is when you are touring and you get to the M25 and you realise you’ve still got an hour to go to get back to Brighton.

“But I love the place. There’s so much live theatre, so much live music, so many artistic people living there.”

Buttons will be played by Michael Burgen and Prince Charming by Lucy Andic. The Ugly Sisters will be played by dames and double act Harry Howle and Chris Aukett.

Cinderella is at Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal this Christmas from December 15-31 – the first time in more than five decades that New Theatre Royal has staged a traditional pantomime. Dick Whittington was the last classic pantomime performed on the Portsmouth stage in 1965, starring Dick Emery and Charles Hawtry.